Historically, man is believed to have first appeared on the face of the earth about 5.6 million years ago. It is the most interesting but intriguing fact and is based on assumptions and some scientific basis. Several forms of humans appeared on the earth thereafter and disappeared. This indeed was the inflexible law of creation and destruction to which the evolutionary milieu of this universe is imminently subject. In between this fateful play of creation, sustenance and annihilation, arose the need for solitude and poise.
Uninterrupted right to the enjoyment of the fruits of labour presupposed a fortified environment of affordable serenity which men of mettle could acquire and sustain. Some through the wages of war and some through negotiation – through an ephemeral illusion in the world of ‘might is right’. Still the primal need for tranquillity and order brought forth a strong State protected by an equally strong and sinewy defence force which comprised of different elements ably commanded and governed by a definite code, essentially uniform in its elements. This model is universal and has been mutatis mutandis adopted by all civilisations in the world and to this, neither China nor any other country is an exception.
Indian polity and military craft
Indian polity and military craft have centred around Dharma or the ordained duty performed as stipulated in the Dharma Shastra, earlier and by a code of conscience thereafter. Part of this was written and part thereof unwritten, but understood by everyone by usage. The texts on warcraft and rules of engagement in combat had their roots entrenched in law of war but originally viewed as part of religious texts. Dharma, however, was undoubtedly taken to be an ordained duty.
The related similes further strengthen the view that the exercise of all sorts of power, was definitely subject to superior logic. Unregulated and unprincipled marches undertaken by the Chinese forces at the border as witnessed in the recent past, being backed and justified by the State are a sure testimony of shortsighted thinking by those at the helm of affairs. Attempts to intimidate the largest democracy in the world is not a child’s play that should have been known to those in power in Beijing.
Belligerence is a trait, prenatal in certain cases and acquired in many others. The nature and kind of this belligerence is dependent upon the aims and objectives with which the State is conceptualized. It also reflects how that State treats the rest of humanity. In many cases, countries resort to ruthlessness to the extent of being barbaric through repression and motivated indoctrinations. Unfortunately, the mind, the wonderful wizard, enables even the States to formulate and later pursue a policy of extreme intolerance and usurpation.
A bioscopial view of China from the time of its evolution traverses the author through a land of proud but myriad dynasties, simple and contended people and contemplative scholars in pursuit of their respective realms of knowledge. With time as the rest of the world moved ahead, China also saw a resurgence of new ideologies until it settled with the latest one.
The cultural revolution of Mao which lasted for ten years from 1966 to 1976 brought a new political, economic and eventually a social order in the country, in the wake of extreme repression which has been justified on grounds that novelty brings resistance and resistance needs to be curbed by the strong State machinery. This, in fact, was the execution of a strong proletarian thought. All the means adopted could thus not be peaceful. There was indeed avoidable bloodshed of its own nationals. The party in power appeared to be desperate to consolidate itself and emerge as the one heading a perfect regime – a piper’s dream in fact, as soon it bloated into a Capitalisticform.
It is almost unbelievable that a country such as China which gave to the world the way to the first printing methods, and history as proud as it could be, would advocate unrelenting bloodshed against a Nation like India that gave to the world the religion of peace and the idols of compassion and peaceful resolutions!
Applying this thought of geographical accessions to India, I do not find this innate desire of usurpation anywhere in its policy towards its neighbours. We are brought up that way! Love thyself, love thy neighbour! Just a few people in ivory towers do not decide here, what we think and propagate.
Having been brought up in the environment rich in benevolence, it actually puzzles the author to see how a country like China, with such profound history, could degenerate into a state of unremittable deception and treachery and adopt devouring trait as an integral part of its policy of expansionism! Definitely, there has to be a long consistent cause and a fixed but distorted mindset at legislative and executive levels, with a marked aversion to peaceful co-existence amidst the humanity at large, in which India has believed since ages. It is, in fact, a malaise in a democratic world!
The underlying cause
The underlying cause is an insatiable ambition of dominance that is inherently averse to the idea of the world being an enlarged family where the human race and its preservation on this planet is the central motto. Diplomatically, it will be contrary to the principle of peaceful co-existence as well. More importantly, why its polity is indulging into this kind of political and military behaviour, is difficult to understand, when this country has been one of the founding and permanent members of the United Nations. In fact, this conduct of China is portraying its ancestors and history in poor light, if that is of any concern to those in power in Beijing.
When we the people of India, i.e., Bharat, stand in comparison with China, doesn’t it project us as world leaders? Yes, it does. Everything of this country represents a high platform on which are seated the patient Indians who breathe in and out the popular adage, sarve bhavantu sukhina, sarve santu niramaya, or let everyone be happy, let everyone be free from disease.
How do we counter and neutralise these belligerent forces?
Let us be certain that the dragon respects power and exploits timidity. Whether it is against Taiwan or in Hong Kong against the will of the people or the Vietnamese, the Japanese or the great benevolent Indians! Let us also admit that it pursues a policy of flexing muscles and flashing incisors. Events of the recent past reveal that they can disregard respect for human life on planet Earth – In fact, world history would reveal that all enemies of mankind have had similar traits. And thus, co-exist in this world with an internecine agenda.
We must realise that we live in times when the walls are falling. 2 Wars are fought for victory on mankind in pursuance of a definite political objective. In the wake of the recent development on the Sino-Indian border, it is not hard to visualize that India China relationship is not as simple as it appears. Going back to the times of Faxi-han who visited India during the fourth century and spent more than a decade learning Indian scriptures primarily Buddhist and later Huen-zang, who visited India during the seventh century A.D. carried out a comparative study of Buddhism in India and Buddhism in China. These Bhikkhus became the apostles of peace from and for the nation which is propagating war as a solution to all issues in the present times. The present-day state of affairs would belie any sensible belief in these backgrounds – Unfortunate for the people of the country of these Buddhist scholars!
The walls are falling
Talking about the recent so-called victories and defeats at the border and the Galwan Valley, in particular, to understand where we stand, it will be relevant to trace which way the rest of the world is heading. George Nolte who has discussed the Military systems of administration in various countries in Europe,3 has remarked that a number of multinational units with a higher level of integration, have come into being in the recent years. For instance, the Euro Corps, the first German Netherlands Corps and the Multinational Corps Northeast. The operational readiness of the militaries which was till recently confined to only the national forces has thus started influencing force readiness of other countries as well.
Belligerence in the neighbourhood is one major cause of such deep influence. We in India who moved on trust and great human values accepted China as a neighbour who too has the will to make amends for past mistakes. If it can happen in Europe, why can’t it happen in Asia? As an example, European forces that generally operate jointly in missions felt a necessity of a uniform code for the Euro forces4 and they could do it. This ranged from operational strategies to the disciplinary aspect during multinational operations. The same is, however, not true in respect of the countries outside the European continent.
With what China is practising with its military and politics with respect to its benevolent neighbour India, is eroding the mutual trust which nations can build amongst themselves and layout a better future for themselves. As for countries around China, at any stage, even if China attempts a truce with them, they shall all revert to their own national ethics and military traditions as the volatile nature of China’s priorities, is detrimental to any good relationship.
The good customs and usage – the roots in morality
History is based on customs. Defined as a rule of conduct, obligatory for those within its scope established by long usage5, customs were the most authentic source of law until the Parliaments in the world started enacting legislations. A reading of the historical texts relating to the defence forces, reveals that all over the world, it is in the customs and conventions that the ground, air and the marine forces of the nations groomed and nurtured themselves.
Whether it was their uniforms or their ranks and ratings or the rules of discipline or the conduct of the troops in combat, the necessity of operations coupled with war usage, decided what was right and what was wrong. The high proprieties of war were followed in battles. In civilised societies, in some cases, the customs took the shape of statues, a majority of them remained unwritten but were followed even in the most adverse situations. Our troops have shown this to the world while tackling the Chinese incursions in Ladakh recently. We can’t be faulted in chivalry.
About Indian sense and sensibility
We in India are inspired by our lofty past. We trust that man’s need for tranquillity and order has brought forth the creation of a strong State ably protected by an equally strong defence force which, though comprised of different elements; but governed by a definite and almost a uniform code. Anthropological records also reveal that though accepted reluctantly, desire for regulation is innate to a civilised society and the instances of such self- regulation are not rare.6 With an inimitable penchant for a well-defined rule of governance and an inflexible code of conduct which became essential to keep the national warp and woof together, keeping it from withering at the seams, we found a close semblance to order in the Western thought and thus hesitantly but scrupulously followed the British model in the defence forces including in it, its veritable hierarchy.
In the process of its evolution, the services witnessed and withstood a host of testing times exhibiting remarkable vision and fortitude. Overlooked by a profound thought, the services found themselves guided by the pristine adage,“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Enamoured by the English thought and sentiment, for the past two and a half centuries, it was no surprise that the character and Military reputation of an Indian soldier came to be seen through the prism of the English sensibility.8 To the extent that fairness and justice too had to be tested on the altar of the proverbial Western Ground Norms which became evident from certain provisions of the Military, Navy and the Air Force laws and procedures.
In the words of Maria Misra, “India…was a living museum of Europe’s distant past, of great repository of verifiable phenomenon of ancient usage“
The forces in combat
The forces in combat are required to be seen as a highly obedient well-groomed and loyal sinew committed to the defence of the nation. Thus, with its lofty ideals, in the body politique, the defence forces of the Union, assumed the covert role of the protector of the Nation and its boundaries from aggressors. It almost occupied the central role like the spinal column keeping the scaffold together with its organizational strength and its capability to protect the Nation from calamities.
The State, King, Defence and Statecraft – our teachings in morality.
In the Indian context, the first comprehensive accounts of State, King, Defence, Statecraft et al, are found in the Mahabharat –surprisingly, a story of a dynastic struggle for the throne of Hastinapur yet so terse in morality! Divided into eighteen Parvas, each dealing with a separate aspect of life. The epic theorises the just war and lays down rules of conduct. King’s authority arose from the various yajnas like the Rajasuya, Vajpeya and Ashwamedha performed by him and under his suzerainty, evolved the laws and procedures of services. Revealing episodes of Mahabharat like shifting of command of forces to Bheeshma then to Drona followed by Karna and then Duryodhana himself assuming the command during the battle of Kurukshetra, is the testimony of variation in command legally exercised.
The concept of inviolable rights available to all human beings is illustrated as Lord Krishna tells his childhood friend Uddhava, “Panchatma Keshu Bhuteshu Smaneshu cha Vastutah”, i.e., all beings are composed of five elements which are constant in all. Hence there is no distinction between one and another except that of responsibility.
Next is the Arthashastraor the ‘treatise on polity’ of Kautilya. Written in the period 322 and 300 BC and comprising 15 parts, the Arthashastra is considered as the masterly treatise on statecraft and a valuable source of information on state administration of which the governance of defence forces constituted an important part.
We have arrived
On the contrary, what philosophy the Chinese counterparts are following, is just anybody’s guess. With them losing ground rapidly on the moral plane, China needs to step back and make way for India as the leader in the world. It doesn’t need to be reiterated that we have proved our superiority all over again. God bless the world, we have arrived! This was noticed by the author in Somalia in September 1993, when the Indian forces as a part of the UN Peace Keeping Force, had descended on the Somali coast. We have done it again at the narrow ridge and while defending the Galwan valley! We could well make a difference on the world scene. We are ready! Peace and tranquillity will now follow as the sure concomitant